This week we caught up with one of our long-term partners, Julian Warowioff who is the Managing Director of Lemonaid Beverages in the UK.
Urban Snacker: So Julian, tell us, how did you get involved with ChariTea and Lemonaid?
The Lemonaid & ChariTea project was started by my friend Paul back home in Germany, as one of the first Social Enterprises in the F&B industry around 2009. I was always quite fascinated by the social mission of the company and how effectively it raises charity donations by its transparent pledge to donate 5 cents/pence from every bottle sold towards social projects. My original plan was to start my own social business at the time, but fate had it that I ended up helping Lemonaid & ChariTea enter new markets, instead. I haven’t regretted this decision a single day, it’s been such a great journey to date.
Urban Snacker: Where did the idea of Lemonaid come from?
Having experienced the inefficiencies of traditional development aid first hand, our founder Paul wanted to create a social business that was self-sustaining, instead of having to constantly raise donations. We work with smallholder farmers in the Global South and we believe the best way of empowering them is through fair trade – by paying fair prices, providing access to international markets, and the security of long-term contracts. We think companies shouldn’t solely exist to benefit their shareholders whilst charities can alleviate the social injustices done to producing countries. Instead, every business has the moral obligation to be a good citizen and take responsibility for their actions. We have always championed the belief that business can be a force for good and be successful – it is possible to achieve both.
Urban Snacker: How much of an impact has the Lemonaid & ChariTea Foundation had on people across the world?
To date, we have raised over £4.5 million for various development projects in the countries where we source our ingredients from. In 2020 we were able to support 26 projects. The organisations behind these projects created the opportunity for 7708 people to receive education and training. Through our support, 164 new small businesses have been established and most of all we helped our partner organisations get through a pandemic.
Urban Snacker: Where does the brand see itself in the next 3-5 years?
We believe that the #drinkinghelps principle of doing good through ethical consumption can be applied to more categories than just soft drinks. We have started working on some exciting new brand and product developments, each tackling different social issues, both on a global and on a local scale. The pandemic has shown us that there is a lot of work that needs to be done in our own communities and we would like to play a role in that, too.
Urban Snacker: How have you managed to adapt your business during the pandemic?
Many of the organisations we support through our Foundation have been affected much worse than businesses here in Europe, where at least some level of government support exists for businesses and individuals. So the question from the start was framed as much around how do we adapt the help for our partners in the South to their urgent needs, as it was about saving our own business. So far we managed both challenges well, by working closely with our partners, and by pivoting our business model to selling directly to consumers through our new online shop drinkinghelps.co.uk
Urban Snacker: What advice would you give new entrepreneurs on how to grow a brand successfully?
Remind yourself of all the things you don’t know when you start out. Test your assumptions critically, especially if there is a genuine need in the market for your product that other brands don’t fulfill – and don’t just rely on your friends and family for feedback. Launch to market quickly with a prototype and expect to pivot your business model several times as you grow. Outsource as much as you can, especially in the beginning, to help you focus on your core mission. Consider scalability in everything you do – keep in mind that most consumer brands will require a pretty steep growth trajectory before they become profitable.